So, dear reader.
Finally I find the time to write another episode of, what has become the traditional road blog.
To be honest, I wasn’t going to bother at all this tour because, what with all the eating, drinking, sleeping and occasional playing we have to do, it’s difficult to find the time. However, when this was suggested, the general reaction was one of shock, horror and outrage.
Both of you said that you quite enjoyed reading them.
…. and, when asked if you would miss it, instantly shrugged your shoulders and replied….
And so, with that ringing endorsement, how could I possible not find the time to scrape together the usual 700 or so words of utter claptrap and half baked nonsense?
So, where to begin?
Rehearsals were the usual chaotic affair, with poor old 80s Dave pulling his hair out (good job there’s plenty of it!) trying to shepherd everyone into the rehearsal room and away from the usual round of fry-ups at the Breakout Café.
We are adding a few new tunes to the set for this tour, some of which we did on the European tour in May/June and some of which are old favourites making a comeback.
There’s even a completely new, never before heard song which we literally only recorded a few weeks ago. I think it may be the new single so its one to watch out for.
Whichever way you look at it, we needed to get in there and get our heads down and rehearse.
Which we didn’t…..
To be honest, it doesn’t matter how much rehearsing we do, the first night of the tour is always a little bit nervy. Did we decide on the short ending or the long one? What happens at the end of “The Rain” (other than the brass players blacking out)?Were we REALLY listening when Dave ran through the links between songs?
Well folks, it would appear that we….
… WERE listening after all, as the opening show of the tour at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, went off without a hitch. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was a cracker!
Before the show I met up with Ian Davies, an old school chum who I had reconnected with a few weeks ago after almost 40 years. Ian and his lovely wife Pauline were in Birmingham for the British Open Brass Band championships which were on in the same hall the following day and they came along to the show just to confirm that my playing had shown very little progress in the intervening decades.
It was great to catch up with them and they even came along to the soundcheck especially to watch me moan about the on-stage sound.
Ticket sales were slow…….. Ian & Pauline at the soundcheck
A number of the venues we are playing on this tour are the Concert Hall type places – The Sage Gateshead, Bridgewater Hall Manchester, Festival Hall London etc – and these were not necessarily designed for bands like us.
A sea of scraping fiddles and sleeping trombonists was more what the acoustic designer had in mind when he sat down at the drawing board with a blank sheet of paper, and so consequently once we crank it up it sounds like a fire in a pet shop! All of the sound rockets the 300 feet or so up to the ceiling, swims around a bit and then rockets back to us with all the notes in a different order. Nightmare.
Thankfully we have the crew to end all crews and they soon had it tamed and sounding more like it should sound.
Of course, once you get a couple of thousand people in there, it changes completely again but, listening back to the mix afterwards, the boys did a stellar job as usual and you would almost think we knew what we were doing.
After the show there was the usual shenanigans and Ian and Pauline came backstage for a taste of the Stansfield glamour 😉 (sweaty musicians in their underpants, devouring the post show pizzas quicker than a shoal of piranha!)
On this tour we are apparently carrying a huge lighting and sound rig and so it took the poor old crew guys hours to get it all packed back into the trucks.
For some reason, my complaint about having to carry three bottles of wine all the way from the dressing room to the bus didn’t go down well and I’m fully expecting to find a horse’s head in my bunk one of these nights.
Or at least the empty wine bottles.
And so, with the first night safely under our belts, we pile on to the trusty bus for the journey north to Gateshead (oh, the glamour!) and Mickey’s home show. He’s apparently invited the great and the good of Hartlepool to the show – so that Fiat 500 will be packed to the gunwales!
A demain, mes amis….